Did anyone hear this Commentary segment on NPR today? I am trying to decide what bugs me about it…
Web summary reads:
The debate about gay marriage takes center stage in the statehouse — where civil law is formed. But commentator Joe Loconte says religious views of marriage are an essential part of the debate and cannot be divided from the legalities. Loconte says the term “marriage” isn’t obscuring the argument — it’s the heart of the argument.
RADIO SEGMENT BEGINS WITH NPR HOST:
Once again today, the lines formed at City Hall in San Francisco, as the city continued issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Many had camped out overnight waiting for their chance to tie the knot. Groups opposed to gay marriage continued with plans for legal challenges.
Much of the recent conflict over gay marriage has played out in the courts and the state houses. But commentator Joe Loconte says religious views of marriage are an essential part of the debate that cannot be divided from the legalities.
When the Massachusetts Court ruled last November that homosexuals should have the right to marry, The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, claimed that the decision had nothing to do with religion. The organization said, it’s about the civil responsibilities and protections afforded through a government-issued civil marriage license.
But of course the fight over gay marriage has at its heart a religious question — it presupposes that there’s something in human nature that either upholds or contradicts the notion of homosexual unions.
The political fixation on civil rights overlooks the more basic fixation on natural rights. One side believes the Deity, quite deliberately, designed male and female for one another. The other sees loving relationships among gays as both a gift and an expression of Divine love. That’s why the debate over gay marriage is a contest over the role of faith in public life. Both sides of this debate want government to endorse what is essentially a religious view of the human condition.
Just ask Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal church. Robinson and his church allies make religious appeals to overturn existing marriage policy. The Reverend Mary McCloud, Bishop of Episcopal Diocese in Vermont, says that the god’s great gift of love should not be denied to homosexuals by laws that prevent them from marrying. Even politicians such as Howard Dean, although he opposes homosexual marriage, cite the Bible to justify gay unions.
Religious conservatives insist that their faith traditions — Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Islamic — recognize the marriage of man and woman as the only legitimate place for sexual and spiritual intimacy. It’s in this institution that children were meant to be nurtured. Everything else, they say, is a counterfeit of divine intent, and they want federal law to uphold the genuine article.
Whatever one thinks about these competing claims, two facts require more attention. First, the advocates of gay marriage, while invoking religious values, are making claims about sexuality that are at odds with the historic, traditional teachings of every major faith tradition on the planet. That doesn’t necessarily make them mistaken, but it ought to make every sensible person pause and wonder why.
The other fact is that Caesar cannot be neutral about these religious claims. In effect, the state will help decide which religious viewpoint should govern political life. The Federal Government isn’t likely to abolish marriage [I detected a sarcastic tone on the first part of this sentence /gconnor] — but it can, by its policies affect the values and assumptions of an entire society. If marriage has its origin in the mind of a Creator, then government dare not be indifferent to His point of view.
Joe Loconte is a Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
Here are my thoughts on the subject:
1. My beef with NPR airing this so-called commentary: I agree with being able to hear all sides of an argument. What I don’t like is that this essay is written in the style of “News analysis” rather than being labelled “Joe’s opinion”. The only clue that this is not really an analysis of both sides is that Joe is introduced as a “commentator” rather than a “reporter”. He has an agenda, but it is cleverly masked by describing “both sides” of the argument and summarizing them (his way of course). This is particularly insidious because it makes listeners vulnerable to “straw man” type arguments, such as “Advocates of gay marriage support it because of X, and X is wrong. Therefore they are wrong.” I believe that Joe Loconte is being deceitful by presenting his argument as if it were a summary of the “heart of the issue” for BOTH sides. I think that NPR is negligent by letting this commentary on the air without disclaimer.
2. My belief that Joe uses deceitful tactics: Saying that “politicians such as Howard Dean, although he opposes homosexual marriage, cite the Bible to justify gay unions” contains two lies: as far as I can tell, Dean does not oppose homosexual marriage, and he doesn’t use the Bible to justify gay unions. (Perhaps Joe gets away with implying that Howard Dean does so by saying “politicians such as Howard Dean…” do so.)
Dean’s actual statement (one of them anyway) appears here… I’ve read it and can’t see where he either opposes gay marriage or cites the Bible…
As governor of Vermont, I have demonstrated my leadership in this area by signing the first law in the country granting same-gender couples the right to enter into civil unions. This law guarantees lesbian and gay couples the same basic legal rights that married couples enjoy: the right to inherit property, obtain child custody, visit a partner in the hospital, and control a partner’s affairs upon death.
Here’s another statement that I find deceitful. “First, the advocates of gay marriage, while invoking religious values, are making claims about sexuality that are at odds with the historic, traditional teachings of every major faith tradition on the planet.” That certainly implies that every major faith tradition on the planet teaches man+woman=marriage, and that if you claim to be religious, and support gay marriage, that you are at odds with everyone on the planet. But does every church always teach what is historic and traditional? Perhaps not. It also implies that *all* advocates of gay marriage make certain claims about sexuality. What he actually says is that they do so “while invoking religious values”. But he has already set us up to believe that pretty much all gay rights advocates use religious arguments. And if a claim is at odds with what is historic and traditional, does that mean that the people making those claims are also at odds? He doesn’t say so but it is implied.
3. My basic argument against Joe’s main point: Joe Loconte is trying to “re-frame” the debate about gay rights and whether they are actual, civil rights by saying “the fight over gay marriage has at its heart a religious question”. This is not true on multiple levels. First, marriage is not about religion; marriage has throughout history been a property arrangement, having to do with dowries, bride-price and creating a single financial entity — priests really only get involved historically because the church wants their cut. Second, the religious conservatives such as Joe certainly see a religious question, but not all supporters of gay marriage see it as a religious question — Joe is choosing only those arguments he wants to have and trying to characterize all supporters of gay marriage as religious wackos who have been disowned by their own churches. Finally, the assertion that “the fight over gay marriage has at its heart a religious question … something in human nature that either upholds or contradicts … homosexual unions.” and “the government cannot be neutral” is a *total* turnaround from one of our founding principles — the separation of church and state and the right to believe differently or not at all. He has it exactly backwards: instead of “the state will help decide which religious viewpoint should govern political life” it would be more correct to say “the state will help decide *whether or not* religious viewpoint should govern political life”.